Conditions Needed to Sustain a Collaborative Policy Process
- Clear Role and Purpose: Going into a stakeholder process,
the participants understand their role, their responsibilities,
and the purpose of the effort.
- Transparency of Decision-Making: However decisions will
be made is discussed and identified on the front of a stakeholder
process. This does not mean that stakeholders, as contrasted
with authorized governmental bodies, need to be the ultimate
decision-makers. Rather, it means that stakeholders understand
the decision-making ground rules before they invest their
time in the process. Based on their evaluation on the decision-making
rules, they can choose to participate or not participate.
This transparency extends to how the ultimate decision will
be made as well as to how decisions, including advisory
decisions, will be made within the stakeholder group itself.
- Interest-Based Decision-Making: If consensus-building
or collaborative action among historical adversarial interests
is a goal of the stakeholder effort, then the decision-making
structure needs to reflect this goal. This would mean that
for the outcome of process to be considered collaborative,
the major interest groupings as defined by the collaborative
would need to be supportive of the decision or recommendation.
- Every Effort to Bring Affected Stakeholders into the Process:
At the beginning of any process, a conscious and serious
effort is made to identify and recruit stakeholders whose
interests are affected by the policy discussions. This requires
a thorough stakeholder analysis process at the start up
of a collaborative process or advisory board process. It
speaks to how legitimate and inclusive a process is.
- Stakeholders Represent Organized Constituencies: When
organizing stakeholder processes, as a general rule the
participants should represent and be accountable to established
organizations, rather than serving as individual citizens.
- Upfront Exploration of Interests: During the initial stages
of a process, a genuine effort is made to explore and communicate
the underlying concerns and needs (interests) of the stakeholders
participating in the process.
- Common Understanding of Problems and Joint Fact Finding:
Time and resources are devoted to developing a common information
base among stakeholders.
- Policy and Technical Expertise: Meaningful stakeholder
processes require some level of external policy and technical
support to accomplish their goals.
- Respectful and Authentic Process: The process is managed
so that all are heard and respected. A key role of the collaborative
specialist / facilitator is to manage the dialogue so that
the conditions of accuracy, comprehensibility, sincerity,
and legitimacy are protected.
- Transparency of Products: The product needs to accurately
reflect the outcome of the stakeholder discussion, in terms
of the level of stakeholder support expressed as well as
the stakeholder rationale for their recommendation. Specifically,
the policy recommendations developed by the stakeholder
group clearly state those who support the recommendation,
those who oppose and why, those who conditionally support
and why, and those who abstain or did not comment and why.
- Resources: Stakeholder processes need to be funded such
that there are appropriate resources to accomplish the above